I’m happy today. Happy and exhausted. I didn’t sleep well last night; white winds rattled the windows of my friends’ house where I slept last night and I flipped back and forth on that very comfortable guest bed in the music room, adjusting pillows and blankets with every flip. Because today I had a meeting with Robyn Read to discuss the edits for The Cost of Weather. In attending her workshops last summer, I was aware that it wasn’t evident when she discussed query letters or first pages if she in fact, liked the work in question. She was very professional, giving suggestions and tips, but never giving away her personal take. She is enthusiastic, warm and welcoming, and she came highly recommended by two authors for whom she edited, but I wondered if I would go away from our meeting unsure whether she actually enjoyed reading my book.
Well, you will have already guessed from my opening, that she did indeed like my story of a good guy who can’t manage to stay connected with his daughter. She particularly liked most of my favorite bits. But what was the most thrilling was just to sit and discuss deeply this world I have been living in for over three years with someone who has read the whole thing, thinks it works, and totally gets it. I talk about the story, explain it, describe, and my good friend Sharon has listened to about a third of it read to her, but there has been no one up until now who has read the whole thing start to finish in its present form.
If you asked my friends they will confirm that I suspected I was going to have to write the thing all over again from start to finish. One acquiring editor at the Algonkian pitch conference suggested that I might do well to change the POV entirely. I really didn’t want to, especially since that’s what I did the first time around, but was interested to hear what Robyn had to say. Whew. She likes the first person POV, feels it works very well.
For the first time, after a meeting such as this, I don’t feel overwhelmed. I agreed with most of her suggestions and can see how easily they can be implemented. Since I’m about to begin a year-long process of getting the first draft of my memoir, Four Winters in India, done, I was a little anxious about trying to focus on two projects at once, but I’m fairly certain I can have these edits done in about a month.
There were a few surprises. Such as her sense that this book has commercial (read American/international) potential. I’m pumped and ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it. Funny, how even those aspects of the book I had struggled with, such a researching the technical aspects of the study of weather, suddenly seem simple.
This reminds me of something that Pat Schneider says, that if you go away from a teacher, course, or editor feeling that you want to write, (and that you can) then that encounter has been a success. So, by extension, if you feel small, overwhelmed, inept, stupid and the like, then it’s pretty clear that the facilitator of that meeting did not do their job well. Robyn did her job very well.
I heard on CBC radio today that the space between novice and amateur is very small; once you mastered the initial elements of a skill, you feel capable and expect that the space between novice and expert should perhaps be just as small. Unfortunately, the truth that the more you learn, the less you realize you know looms quickly, and all that initial confidence (and cockiness) goes down the tubes. Today, I experience a bit of respite from that awful sense that I will never finish this novel, that it has only been an exercise in which to learn how to write a novel.